BHEF has continued to meet and communicate with Congress and the Administration on BHEF’s priorities. BHEF sent letters to the following individuals outlining BHEF’s advocacy priorities and offering BHEF support where it can be of help.
- Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education
- Martha Kanter, Under Secretary of Education
- Bob Shireman, Deputy Under Secretary of Education
- Jim Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement
BHEF is closely tracking education-related advocacy efforts that align with the College Readiness and STEM Initiatives. This month's Advocacy Update provides news and analysis on the following items:
- STEM education and coordination
Representative Vern Ehlers introduced H.R.2511 which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require the use of science assessments in the calculation of adequate yearly progress beginning in the 2010-2011 school year. The bill has been referred to the House Education and Labor committee.
BHEF signed on to a letter supporting the passage of the HR1709, the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009 to Representatives Bart Gordon and Ralph Hall, co-sponsors of the bill. The legislation, which successful passed in the House, intends to reorganize the current White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a standing committee on STEM education with the responsibility to coordinate all federal STEM education programs. This act will help ensure that taxpayer funds are being spent more judiciously on this critical national challenge. Senator Kauffman introduced a companion bill, S. 1210, in the Senate.
- FAFSA Simplification
On June 25, 2009, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced plans to streamline and simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form used by the federal government, states, and most colleges and universities to make financial aid awards to students. Analysis from the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the American Council on Education, and a variety of other institutions have found that high percentages of students do not apply for financial aid, and nearly twenty percent of those who do not file come from low –and moderate-income families. Moreover, about half of these low-income students would likely have been eligible for a Pell Grant if they had applied for financial aid.
The department’s ambitious plan to overhaul the online FAFSA application, eliminate certain questions, and allow students and families to use IRS data to answer other questions is commendable. Experts look forward to learning more details about the proposed changes and anticipate an engaging policy discussion with students and their families, institutions, and congress regarding additional changes in the coming months.
- President Obama’s Community College Plan
On July 14th, 2009, President Obama put community colleges at the center of his plans to revitalize the American economy. He proposed roughly $12 billion in new spending over the coming decade for a variety of programs focused on two-year institutions, including job training, improvements in basic skills education, facilities, and free online education. In his speech announcing the program at Macomb Community College in Warren Michigan, President Obama highlighted the importance of community colleges in increasing access to higher education, and he admonished the way these institutions have frequently been ignored in favor of elite institutions. "Community colleges are treated like the stepchild of the higher education system; they're an afterthought, if they're thought of at all," Obama said, in a speech at Macomb Community College. The community college program would involve several aspects. The largest would be a $9 billion fund for competitive grants to community colleges. One set would focus broadly on job training, alignment with workforce needs and developmental education. The other part would be a grant program focused on community college completion. Colleges would receive funds to create, improve, and evaluate programs that encourage completion or to identify and spread good practices.
We would be delighted to share our Advocacy Update with your staff or colleagues. To include them on future mailings, or for more information on the items included in this newsletter or other policy issues, please contact Kirstin McCarthy, associate director of programs, at email@example.com or 202-367-2433.